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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 6, Issue 5, 2002

Beneath the Spreading Chestnut Tree

page 55

Beneath the Spreading Chestnut Tree

Edward Hart, born 17 February 1851, was the son of Abraham and Lucy Hart who had arrived in Nelson on the Lord Auckland in 1842. The family built a raupo hut where the Queen's Gardens are now, which they shared with Abraham's brother Richard, who had travelled out with them. The families lived at either end, separated by a sacking wall.

After being allotted their country acres, the families moved to Richmond, and farmed their land. Some of Richard's descendants still live in the area.

When Edward left school he was apprenticed to a blacksmith at Brightwater. In 1867 his parents moved to Koromiko, in Marlborough, where his elder brothers had established themselves. Edward later joined his family, partnering his brothers in various activities such as contracting, running a woodyard, and establishing a brewery.

He married Margaret Moore in 1878 and they moved to Nydia Bay in Pelorus Sound when he bought a farm there in 1883.

By this time their sons were school age and, with her limited schooling, Maggie taught them as best she could from the books that they had brought with them. When they outgrew their reading books she reluctantly brought down the Family Bible. When telling us about it in later life she said: "I managed all right for a start, until I got to the begats. You know, where Abraham begat Isaac, and Isaac begat Esau, and so on, but I didn't pronounce begat properly. I said 'beggat'. Father came in and he laughed, so I shut the book, and said 'Right, that's the finish. I will go where the boys can go to school, and you can do what you like".

Edward was disheartened with farming as he was struggling with a severe outbreak of scab amongst his sheep. Being a sympathetic man who could see his wife's difficulties he sold out to the Goulds, who were already established as farmers at Nydia Bay. He brought his family to Okaramio in the Kaituna Valley.

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Edward Hart, Blacksmith, Okaramio. N Farnell.

Edward Hart, Blacksmith, Okaramio. N Farnell.

Edward bought an established blacksmith business from Tom Maxted and began plying his trade in 1889. He bought 20 acres of land on which the blacksmith shop stood and built a family home which is now lived in by a great-grandson. He built a new smithy in the late 1890s and planted a chestnut sapling outside the door to shade it.

As Longfellow wrote: 'Neath the spreading chestnut tree, the village smithy stands', and today it is registered as an historic tree.

Edward was a good tradesman who made and repaired all manner of farm tools and machinery. He shod wagon horses, mill horses, farm horses, hacks, and gig horses, as well as Newmans' coach horses, used on the Nelson-Blenheim run.

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He had known Tom and Harry Newman, founders of the coach line, as young men, having gone to school with them. When they began their service in 1889, they built their stables and groom's house near to Edward's smithy, and he shod all the coach horses that were changed at Okaramio. He also travelled to Canvastown and shod the horses that were left at Newmans' stables there. The first entry for Newman Bros in Edward's ledger on 12 February 1889 records '1 set of 4 new shoes, 6 shillings', and the last, on 29 June 1912, is for '2 new shoes, 3 shillings'.

Edward worked as a blacksmith with the help of his sons until his son Gilbert took over the business in the early days of World War I. The blacksmith shop is almost derelict now, having been empty and forgotten these last 50 years. The highway that once took a wide sweep past the door now by-passes it, and few folk would ever notice it, or know that it was once a busy hub of the district.

Edward Hart's blacksmith shop as it is today, under the chestnut tree, which has been registered as historic. N Farnell

Edward Hart's blacksmith shop as it is today, under the chestnut tree, which has been registered as historic. N Farnell